A chemical plant in Oberhausen, the Ruhr region of Germany, has triggered a public health crisis after a 600 cubic metre container containing the caustic substance ruptured.
Nearby homes and businesses have been warned to keep their doors and windows shut as a noxious acid cloud was created after the spillage.
Authorities have issued an alert regarding the pollutant cloud, with an Oberhausen officer saying: "Harmful fumes may have been created which moved into a nearby commercial area.”
Police said smoke and gas were still rising from the Hamm Chemie plant after the spill on Thursday morning.
A 600 cubic metre container containing the caustic substance ruptured
A shopping mall in the area, CentrO, was forced to shut
Harmful fumes may have been created
The acid was being pooled in a collecting basin and pumped out in a controlled manner.
The main affected area is the district of Osterfeld and the nearby commercial area.
The Fire Brigade immediately began evacuating the industrial area Max-Eyth street.
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Polizei Oberhausen took to twitter to warn residents, tweeting: “Residents and company employees in the industrial area at the Max-Eyth street are now being evacuated. Keep windows/doors shut.”
But the deadly cloud could spread father over other parts of city depending on wind direction.
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If the wind direction stays the same, the affected areas will be limited to Klosterhardt, Tackenberg, Eisenheim, Osterfeld, Sterkrade, and Buschhausen.
A shopping mall in the area, CentrO, was forced to shut.
In the immediate aftermath of the spill trains were diverted to avoid Oberhausen central station, and all ship traffic has been terminated.
Traffic backed up on the nearby A42 autobahn as the deadly cloud began to drift close to the motorway, which was promptly shut as a precaution.
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The Fire Brigade is currently using measuring vehicles to gage the pollutant levels.
Police are so far unable to confirm when the all-clear may be given.
Sulphuric acid is a key component of explosives, and can corrode skin and tissue in its concentrated form.
Sulphuric acid is a key component of explosives, and can corrode skin and tissue
The highly corrosive liquid releases heat when mixed with water.
The health crisis comes less than a week after Hamburg airport was forced to be evacuated after a potentially toxic chemical gas leak.
Some 68 people needed medical attention for breathing difficulties.
No one is thought to have been injured in the chemical plant incident.
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